Research and Rhetoric on Women in Papua New Guinea’s Village Courts


Goddard, Michael. 2005. “Research and Rhetoric on Women in Papua New Guinea’s Village Courts.” Oceania 75 (3): 247-67.

Author: Michael Goddard


This paper addresses a recent and popular rhetoric in academic literature that women are discriminated against, often in the name of 'custom,' in the male-dominated village courts of Papua New Guinea. The rhetoric is interrogated with reference to academic research findings and reports since the early days of the legislatively introduced village court system, and to data from the author's own research in recent years. On the basis of these two sources, it is argued that the evidence does not support the rhetoric, and further that the latter does less than justice to grassroots women in Papua New Guinea by portraying them as relatively passive victims of village courts. On the contrary, fieldwork research findings indicate that women are confident and reasonably successful disputants and that village courts are a community-level resource which is becoming increasingly useful for grassroots women with limited avenues for seeking justice and recompense.

Topics: Gender, Women, Justice Regions: Oceania Countries: Papua New Guinea

Year: 2005

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